Rolling since 1965, the Bronco is the first SUV Ford developed. But this American icon has seen its ups and downs. The fourth-generation Bronco began production in 1991 for the 1992 model year and followed the ninth-generation Ford F-150 design. However, due to consumers’ lack of interest in two-door SUVs, the Bronco saw a significant drop in sales throughout the 1990s. In 1997, Ford replaced it with the Expedition to compete with the GMC Suburban and Yukon, making it clear O.J. Simpson had nothing to do with the Bronco’s demise.
But after nearly 25 years, the Ford Bronco is back for the 2021 model year. It boasts retro styling and a two-door config to reflect earlier generations. However, it also offers a four-door body for practicality. Does that mean the new Bronco also gets three rows of seating?
The 2021 Ford Bronco’s seating
Consumer Reports awarded the 2021 Ford Bronco the highest predicted owner satisfaction rating of 5 even though this SUV offers only two rows of seats. You can get either a two-door, four-seat configuration or a four-door, (cramped) five-seat configuration. On the negative side, Consumer Reports gave it a score of 2/5 for predicted reliability, so you might want to be slightly modest on the adventures at first.
According to Ford, the two-door base model starts at $28,500. It packs a 270-hp 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine paired with a seven-speed manual transmission. The four-door base model starts at $33,200. Powered by the same standard engine, it features a 10-speed SelectShift automatic transmission that’s semi-manual.
Each Bronco model is a 4X4. Standard features include four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, electronic stability control, electronic traction control, standard-duty suspension, and part-time selectable engagement 4X4. Part-time 4X4 allows you to turn the 4WD on and off as needed. When it’s off, the Bronco drives like any regular rear-wheel-drive SUV.
The new Bronco has less cargo space than some compact SUVs
The new Ford Bronco offers 32 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the second row. Fold it down for 65 cubic feet. That’s “exactly 1.0 cubic foot below the class average for each measure,” MotorTrend reports. “But cargo space is what cargo space does, and Ford has ensured that frequently hauled adventure gear fits easily. For example, with the rear seat folded down, two mountain bikes fit easily inside with the front wheels removed.”
By comparison, the 2021 Kia Soul subcompact crossover has 24.2 cubic feet with the seats up and 62.1 with the seats down. The 2021 Hyundai Tucson compact SUV offers 31 cubic feet with the seats up and 61.9 with the seats down. Based on the numbers, “below the class average” makes the Ford Bronco more compact than midsize.
Nevertheless, compact SUVs can still cram in a third row. For example, the 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander can seat up to seven people in three rows. Let’s not forget the 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan, another compact SUV with third-row seating for seven. But good luck trekking the wilderness in those models. It’s also important to consider that only Ford’s midsize-to-large SUVs offer third-row seating. They include the Flex, Explorer, Expedition, and Lincoln Navigator (if you’re feeling generous).
Ford built the 2021 Bronco for off-road adventures, not family outings
We would never assert that specific vehicles are intended for specific types of people. But frankly, Ford didn’t design the 2021 Bronco with family road trips in mind. It’s a sporty 4X4 SUV begging to go off the beaten path, hence the standard 4X4 features. And when it comes to options, again, it’s all about 4X4 action.
Examples of the performance and handling options include high-clearance suspension, trail turn assist for negotiating tight off-road turns, trail one-pedal driving that automatically applies the brakes when the driver eases off the gas, and trail control — like cruise control slowed way down.
Anyone who has ever done serious off-roading, whether as a driver or passenger, knows how jarring it can be. It’s bad enough with four people — heads and shoulders bouncing all over the place — let alone adding a third-row of seats and cramming the cabin shoulder-to-shoulder. You’d need a helmet to avoid a mild concussion and cracked teeth. Looking at any true four-wheel vehicle, you’d notice they’re usually two- to four-seaters.